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Publication: Travel Tips
Dogs, Decoys and Deadbolts

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Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 

May 20, 2008 

It's been 16 years since a carnival of homemade Rube 
Goldberg contraptions turned the bumbling burglars of 
"Home Alone" into human Wile E. Coyotes, but I still want 
Macauley Culkin to watch my house when I'm out of town.

I mean, what could be a more effective deterrent against 
opportunistic intruders than a creative 8-year-old boy 
armed with paint cans, a pet tarantula and a 1940s 
gangster flick? 

O.K., probably a lot of things.

This week's topics include:




P.S. If you're interested you can now post comments on this 
and recent issues on our forum at... Travel Tips Forum 


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I guess the first problem with hiring Culkin, now 26, as a 
security guard would be getting him past the mandatory drug 
test. On the plus side, he probably doesn’t have much else 
on his schedule.

But for those of us who don’t have the kind of budget it 
takes to hire former Hollywood child stars, there are a lot 
of other things you can do to protect your personal castle 
while you are away. 

The first is recognizing that you are a potential target. 
According to the FBI, a burglary occurs somewhere in the 
United States every 15.4 seconds.

The majority of home and apartment burglaries occur during 
the daytime when most people are away at work or school. 
They peak during the summer months, which are just around 
the corner, when folks are away for a week or more on 
vacation and leave their homes unoccupied and vulnerable.

So what can you do?

* Know your enemy

It’s probably not Joe Pesci. Or, for that matter, 
international art thieves, a well-organized gang of 
professionals or the Mob. 

Most burglaries are committed by young males under the age 
of 25 years who are looking for items that are small, 
expensive, and can easily be converted to cash, according to 
police experts. Favorite items are cash, jewelry, guns, 
watches, laptop computers, video players, iPods, CDs and 
other small electronic devices. Quick cash for drugs or 
gambling is usually the bottom line. 

* Think like a burglar. 

"Case" your home the way a burglar would and look for easy 
ways to enter it. What windows can be reached easily? What 
part of the house is darkest, furthest from the street or - 
for whatever reason - least observable to anyone who might 
happen to be looking? Are there any doors with weak locks or 
jambs that are just one solid kick away from the woodpile? 

* Watch your back

Most burglars enter via the front, back, or garage doors. 
Experienced burglars know that the garage door is usually 
the weakest point of entry, followed by the back door. The 
garage and back doors also provide the most cover

* Car care

Not only is your car not necessarily safe, but it is also 
not A safe. Burglars know to look inside your car for keys 
and other valuables so keep it locked, even when parked 
inside your garage. Better yet, remove those valuables and 
put them in a real safe. 

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* Driveway decoy

Consider leaving your car in the driveway to give the 
appearance that you are there. If possible, have a trusted 
neighbor move it every once in a while, maybe park it in the 
street a night or two, to make it seem like it's in use.

If you‘re using your vehicle for your trip, a neighbor might 
be good enough to occasionally park in your driveway to give 
the appearance of occupancy.

* High lights

Make sure that exterior lights are mounted out of reach, so 
that burglars can't easily unscrew bulbs. 

* Stick it to them

Sliding glass patio doors are secured by latches, not 
serious locks, so they're easier to break into. You can 
discourage that by cutting a wooden dowel or board - I find 
an old broom handle works great - to fit inside the door and 
keep it from opening.

The same trick works well for horizontal sliding windows, 
and vertical sliding windows.

* Motion detector

Consider buying motion-sensitive lights, which are now 
available at relatively low prices. You want to set them so 
they're hyper sensitive. So what if they're going off every 
time a neighborhood cat slinks by? It's not like they'll 
wake anybody up.

* Timing

Use a variable light timer to activate lights inside your 
home. A darkened home night-after-night sends the message to 
burglars that you are away on a trip. 

Exterior lighting on the front of a property should also be 
on a timer. This establishes a routine and the appearance of 
occupancy at all times. Leaving the garage or porch lights 
turned on all day on a single family home is a dead giveaway 
that you are out of town. 

If you can't get timers, see if neighbors can occasionally 
drop by to flick a variety of lights on or off for you.

* Don't put off the yard work

Trim trees and shrubs near doors and windows so burglars 
can't hide in the shadows

* Do deadbolts

Installing deadbolt locks on all exterior doors. Make sure 
they are not placed too close to a window, or all a burglar 
will have to do is smash the glass, reach in, and open the 

* Keep the dogs at home

The best burglar alarm is a barking dog - intruders know the 
sound comes with teeth. 

Consider skipping the kennel next time you're away and 
hiring someone to feed and walk your dog(s) while you’re 
away instead. The dog gets to stay in familiar surroundings 
and the vocal deterrent should keep away criminals.

You should not, however, do this if your dog has a barking 
problem to begin with. If his or her normal response to 
being left alone is to make noise, your neighbors might wind 
up breaking into your house just to muzzle your pet.

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* A key keeper

Allowing a neighbor to have a key solves the problem of 
hiding a key outside the door. Experienced burglars know to 
look for hidden keys in planter boxes, under doormats, and 
above the ledge.

* Alarm systems

If you can afford it, install an alarm system that will 
alert neighbors of a burglar's presence. Most systems can 
even summon local police directly. 

Simply having the lawn signs or stickers of an alarm company 
posted can be a powerful deterrent.  Home and apartment 
burglars will usually bypass a property with visible alarm 
signs and will go to another property without such a sign.

* Good neighbors

Get to know your neighbors on each side of your home and the 
three directly across the street.  Good neighbors can pick 
up your mail, newspapers, handbills, and can inspect the 
outside or inside of your home periodically to see that all 
is well. 

While you’re at it, try to hire a neighborhood kid to mow 
your grass, shovel your walk and do other things you 
normally would if you were home.

* Street value

Be sure valuables such as guns, electronic devices and 
artwork are not visible from the street. 

* It's handy, man

Be sure to lock up ladders and tools which could be used to 
break into your home. I once locked myself out of my old 
apartment and had to break into a second-story window. The 
ladder the landlord kept in the backyard sure came in handy 
for that.

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading.   

Your Tipmeister,   



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